Beetroot for your health, and pheromone bliss for your feline!

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris var. esculenta) is an easy-to-grow veggie, suitable as a salad ingredient (cooked or raw), as a dramatic colour contrast between other root vegetables roasted with olive oil and fresh herbs, and also used raw as a healthy ingredient in juices and smoothies.

There are different types of beetroot, including ‘Bull’s Blood’, an extra-dark red beet; ‘Yellow Globe’, a golden yellow one; ‘Albino White’, an extra-sweet white type without the earthy taste; ‘Crimson Globe’, a normal beet; ‘Rainbow Mix’, an assortment of all the colours above; and ‘Chioggia’, with red flesh interspersed with white concentric circles.

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Any coffee shop worth its salt will nowadays offer a delicious beetroot drink as a healthy and detoxifying appetiser served before breakfast or brunch – the colour in the glass might appear a bit bloody, but the taste is divine! Hip youngsters also report that they drink a home-made beetroot cocktail after working out at the gym to restore their energy. Here is one version, straight from the horse’s mouth:

Beetroot3_lrIn a juicer/blender combine:

A handful of young, fresh beets (peeled and chopped)

1 small red apple (cored and chopped)

2 celery sticks (chopped)

2 lemons (squeezed roughly)

About 5 cm length of fresh ginger (chopped)

The leaves of beetroot can be eaten as well, either cooked as spinach or chopped up in salads, which gives this veggie a double advantage. It also takes up very little space in the garden and could actually be planted amongst flowers, as long as you have deeply cultivated, loamy soil enriched with compost. Or you can grow your beets in pots filled with good-quality, well-draining potting soil. Seeds can be sown in all but the coldest winter months. To ensure a sustainable harvest, sow a few seeds every 4-6 weeks. Keep the soil moist until germination, and thin out the young seedlings to grow about 10-15 cm apart – any closer together and the roots will turn woody. After thinning out, the young leaves of excess seedlings can be used in salads or stir-fries. Good companion plants for beetroot in the veggie patch are onions, bush beans, lettuce and cabbage.

Nepeta-cataria-(Catnip)_lrWhat cats want

Many cats are crazy about catnip (Nepeta cataria), a hardy, herbaceous perennial that grows up to 60 cm tall, with small white or lilac flowers and fragrant foliage. Cats love the disinfectant-like, minty aroma, which is released when they rub their faces or roll in it, and they will even eat the fresh leaves. They then fall into a euphoric state, meowing and purring. Not all cats react to this plant though – some simply ignore it, so don’t worry that you’ve planted defective catnip if this is the case with your cat!

The leaves and twigs dry well, but are best used still fresh, placed in a small cloth bag or old sock as a toy for your cat. As catnip is also an effective insect repellent, use it to repel fleas and ticks from dogs by placing twigs amongst their blankets and rubbing their fur with fresh snips of it. Used catnip as a pretty border plant in the veggie garden, as it repels other insects too. Frequent pruning will encourage dense and healthy growth. Catnip likes to grow in full sun and does not need a lot of water.

Do humans also go into a nearly catatonic and euphoric state when lying on catnip? No, but as this is a member of the mint family, us humans can use the leaves in healthy herbal teas or summer salads, and the flowers as garnishes. All in all, it a valuable herb for the whole family!

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